That Gum You Like

Road Trip, Vol. 1

Posted in Adelaide, Road Trip by Dave on December 10, 2009

hey kiddos–

So I left Melbourne on Tuesday at about 7pm. The late exit because I didn’t end up getting the car until about 4pm, and took three hours to frantically get an iPod connector and pack all my stuff. I had been planning to stay in a campground in Little Desert National park, and really it looked very nice. But it was a lot further away than I thought it was, and by the time I reached Keniva, the town you access the park from, it was about midnight. Also, I couldn’t find the campground, so I suppose it wasn’t so much the midnight as the fact that I had no earthly idea where I was going. It’s called planning folks.

So my plan for the trip as a whole had been to sleep in my car for the most of it, as a money saving technique and a surefire hilarious-story bonus detail. So I arrive in Keniva, can’t find the campground, and decide, well, may as well start now. I pulled into a parking lot conveniently located right by the police station, whipped out my blanket and pillow, reclined the seat, and tried to sleep.

Mine is red.

The picture does this beast far too much justice in the size department. Cramped is an understatement. After I couldn’t work it in the drivers seat, I tried lying across the back seat. After a few minutes getting intimate with my knees, I decided it just wasn’t going to work.

Okay, I imagine some of you at this point are thinking, “C’mon dave, I’ve seen you fall asleep sitting up at the dinner table in the middle of a conversation, and you’re telling me you couldn’t sleep in a car because it was too small?”. And you’re right. That’s not the whole story. The other half of the story is I got spooked, and bailed. A few things in my defense–it was midnight. this town was a straight transplant from rural Alabama. Before leaving Melbourne, I watched Wolf Creek, a horror flick about backpackers getting murdered in rural Australia. And the king of all reasons–both times I stopped for gas en route, the conversations I had with the various truckers went something like this:

“Where ya headed mate?”
“Uh, Keniva. Little Desert National Park.”
“Ah, American, are yas?”
“Yeah, east coast.”
“Ah. Well, good luck to ya, and y’know….be careful.”
**nervous laugh** “Of what, in particular?”
“Just be careful, mate”
**increasingly nervous laugh “Yeah, okay, thanks…”
“Some people out here don’t much care for tourists, that’s all.”

At this point I typically choked out a thanks and got back in my car. I’m almost certain they were joking, but as it got darker and the traces of civilization got further and further away, the joke stopped being funny.

Okay, so, yeah. The truth is, whatever the reason, I knew I wasn’t sleeping in that car. So I drove the rest of the way to Adelaide, and got in at about 3 in the morning. After it became clear that every hostel in town was closed and that the only open hotel was the surely very expensive (at least compared to the $24 hilton, it was 5 in the morning and I figured I may as well just stay awake until it got light. So I cruised around and saw some of the city, walked through the park, and as it got light, drove through the adelaide hills and watched the sunrise over some mountains. It was pretty awesome actually.

The rest of my day was spent cruising around Adelaide and trying not to fall asleep in bookstores and art galleries. I found an absolutely incredible bookstore in a tiny gallery called the Experimental Art Foundation. I’ve never seen a less commercially viable place of business in my life. The biggest sections were Philosophy and Experimental Lit. followed closely by Art and Literary Theory. All of the marginal sections in any reasonable bookstore, if they have them at all, were highlighted here. It was a dream come true for a snob like me, but it blew my mind how anti-profit the design and selection was. I have a lot of respect for the guy who runs it, who talked to me for quite a bit as I nosed through the store. As he explains it, because the gallery is supported by the government, he doesn’t pay taxes, and can survive as long as he doesn’t actually lose money. Which is enough of a challenge, as I discovered. He claimed that he got far more customers like me, just passing through town, than from the local community, despite the fact that he’s on the campus of the University of South Australia, which reportedly has a robust art program.

And quite a good one, to judge by their museum. I spent nearly an hour in their Sydney Ball exhibit, which was pretty great.

Shapes, guys. I love 'em.

After nerding it up in the museums, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens reading comics. [Garth Ennis’s Preacher and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Amazing and disappointing, respectively. Preacher highly recc’d if you like: absurd violence, foul language, books that make you feel gross for reading them, and the Golden Compass]. Around six I checked into a hostel. Okay hostels are ludicrous and I felt like an alien, but I don’t have the time to do the subject justice. I’ll probably end up staying in quite a few more, so I’ll write more about them as I get a better sense of what’s crazy and what’s not.

After a few beers at the local Pub, the fantastic Grace Emily, I crashed mega early. Like, 8pm early. 32 hours awake was enough for me.

Today I’m headed off to Port Augusta, the reported “Crossroads of Australia”. I think this is where the Outback starts, so I’ll be looking for a steakhouse.

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In Which Dave Goes Explorin’

Posted in Sydney by Dave on September 16, 2009

DAY 3

After a quick breakfast this morning, I headed off into Sydney, to see what kind of wandering I could get done by myself. Without a guide, I expected to get lost, and as soon as I got off the train in Town Hall, this expectation was met handily. As I tried to make my way to Circular Quay, the area Sarah had showed me around the day before, I walked in the exact opposite direction, ending up on a different part of the bay. After futilely trying to figure out the way back to Circular Quay by myself, I buckled down and asked for directions. Now, I’m certainly familiar with how difficult it is to give directions to tourists, but after five sets of conflicting instructions from storeowners, (including one dude who started to list streets and then laughed at my baffled expression and offered to call me a cab), I decided my best bet was to buy one of the incredibly overpriced maps sold at the little news kiosks, which finally got me on the right track back towards Circular Quay.
En route to the Quay I stumbled across the Art Gallery of New South Wales, probably my best find on the trip so far. This museum, like the Museum of Contemporary Art the day before, was completely free. I spent a few hours wandering around it’s three floors, checking out its incredibly varied and satisfying collection. Although I suppose the museum is particularly focused on Australian and Aboriginal art, it had a great collection of 20th and 21st century works.
The highlight of which was Study for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon, tucked away in a little corner of the 2nd level. I don’t profess to know a whole lot about art in general, but Francis Bacon is somebody that I’ve been geeking out over this summer, after I read some interview with David Lynch where he said Bacon was his favorite painter. So after spending a few months looking at the google image versions of Bacon’s work, it was a really awesome surprise to walk around the corner and stumble across this:

Forgive the glare

Forgive the glare

Other highlights:

No Joke. Gold.

No Joke. Gold.

Hotties.

Hotties.

Nip Slip.

Nip Slip.

Cool Falcon, Bro.

Cool Falcon, Bro.

Lol.

Lol.

Shapes FTW.

Shapes FTW.

After leaving the museum, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the bay, getting a few shots off on my little digital point and shoot and lusting over all the tourists with their fancy SLR’s and 35mm cameras. Anyway, here’s the obligatory Sydney Opera House Pic:

Had to do it.

Had to do it.

The bay is really an incredible spot, edged by the gorgeous botanical garden, and with incredible views of the surrounding city. Spending the afternoon amongst thousands of other tourists was actually surprisingly comfortable, a reminder that as much as I might feel like a weirdo american most of the time, there are plenty of people in my same shoes.

DAY 4

Spent most of today driving around Ku-Ring-Gai national park with Margaret and her daughter Barbara. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I can’t share with you the incredible flowers and aboriginal carvings I saw, or the awesome view from Barrenjoey lighthouse. Suffice to say, they were pretty awesome. No wildlife so far, although I was assured there were Kangaroos and Wallabies (which are apparently basically the same thing…) just around every curve. Still waiting on those. But, despite the foggy weather, had a great day cruising around the wilder side of Sydney.

DAY 5

Today, Margaret’s son Andrew took Margaret, her sister Jean, and myself out on his vintage motor-yacht. It really is a pretty awesome boat. We took the day to motor around the rivers that run through Ku-Ring-Gai, the park I had driven through the day before. Very cool to see it from the water, and what the landscape looked like on a larger scale. Took a few opportunities to row ashore, and saw my first real Australian wildlife (okay, aside from the birds, but really, who cares):

Dragon?

Dragon?

**Shudder**

**Shudder**

Apparently these creepy things are known as Goannas, which if you’ve seen Rescuers Down Under, you should have repressed memories of. I also was told to be careful swimming, as there was a pretty solid chance of Bull sharks in the water. Sharks are definitely my one true phobia, so when I did go swimming, I went from the beach, and was barely in enough to get my head wet. After lunch we motored over to a waterfall, which was a good opportunity to try out my Super 8, which I’ve almost completed one roll of so far. Not going to know what it really looks like for a while, but I bought about 8 rolls of film, so something interesting should come of it, I hope…

DAY 6

Today I went into Gordon and ran some errands, which pretty much brings us up to know, where I’m sitting in a coffee shop and typing this post. No internet though, so I think I’m going to sneak into the McDonalds and upload everything. This afternoon I leave for Roma, Queensland, where I begin the first true leg of my stay here, working on a cattle ranch belonging to a dude named Simon Body. I don’t know a goddamn thing about this place, except that every Aussie I’ve mentioned this to so far has laughed at me and told me I’m a moron. Should be GREAT!!

Hugs, Kisses,

–D

Some tunes for YOU!

Country tinged genius pop from former underground disco phenom:

Arthur Russell – I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face

John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals, etc…) runs on premium. Super high-octane head bangin’ :

Coachwhips – Dance Floor Bathroom

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